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The History of Solar Energy and Battery storage

Leca

April 1, 2022

5 Mins read

Solar Energy and Battery Storage is very prevalent in today’s times, with more and more people opting to switch to a renewable source of power. In this article we explore the invention of Solar Energy and battery storage.

Summary

The concept of humans understanding the power of solar energy can be traced back to the 7th century B.C., where human used sunlight and magnifying glass material to light fires. Other early uses of solar energy were the Greeks and Romans bounced sunlight off of “burning mirrors” to light torches for religious ceremonies, a process similarly used by the Chinese civilisation in 20 A.D. Sunrooms were introduced to direct sunlight into specific areas indoors through large windows, an architectural concept still popular to this day. In the late 1700s and 1800s, researchers and scientists used sunlight to power ovens during long sea voyages, and went on to invent solar-powered steamboats.

Sunroom

The invention of Solar power cell technology

The is some debate as to the scientist who should be credited for the invention of solar panels, since the development of the technology can be attributed to the contributions of various scientists.

  • In 1839, French Physicist Edmond Becquerel determined light could increase electricity generation when two metal electrodes were placed into a conducting solution.
  • Later in 1876, William Grylls Adams’ and Richard Evans Day’s discovered that selenium creates electricity when exposed to sunlight.
  • In 1883, American inventor Charles Fritz created the first working selenium solar cell.
  • In 1954, Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson’s created the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell at Bell Labs. The first ever silicon solar cell could convert sunlight at four percent efficiency, less than a quarter of what modern cells are capable of.

Luigi, Charles Fritz, Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearsons

The invention of Battery storage

The road to our current state of energy storage knowledge has been a long one, with the history of battery technology beginning over 200 years ago.

  • In 1780, Italian physicist Luigi Galvani laid the groundwork that led to the invention of modern-day batteries, with the accidental discovery that muscles contract when touched by two different metals.
  • In 1801, German physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter further developed the galvanic cell so that they could be recharged after discharging, which led to German physicist Wilhelm Josef Sinsteden inventing the lead-acid battery.
  • Over time Alkaline and Nickel-metal hydride batteries invented and developed, which ultimately led to the invention of Lithium-ion batteries, which is considered to be the best type of battery for current-day Solar PV Systems.
  • Sony developed the first commercial rechargeable lithium-ion battery in 1991 which became an overnight success.
  • Scientists John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino were awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work in the development of lithium-ion batteries.

Present day Solar power and Battery Storage

From the use of solar technology to power satellites in outer space in the mid-1900s, to solar-powered homes and businesses in the present day, solar has become a realistic way for everyday people to generate power.

Lithium-ion is now the most common battery chemistry used to store electricity. Coupling batteries with renewable energy generation allows that energy to be stored during times of low demand and released (or dispatched) at times of peak demand.

Unlike many other forms of energy storage and generation, batteries are particularly valuable because they provide flexibility. They can respond faster than other energy storage or generation technologies, and help maintain grid stability by turning on and off in fractions of a second.

The cost of switching to solar and battery storage in Australia has been decreasing exponentially in the past decade, with the help of solar rebates, subsidies and incentives from the federal and some state/territory governments. One such rebate is the Next Generation Energy Storage program by The ACT Government, which offers a battery rebate of $3,500 or 50% of the battery price, whichever is lowest. With the help of the Next Gen program, many homeowners and businesses are now able to take the next step towards self-sufficiency by investing in battery storage. You can learn more about this initiative by the ACT Government here.

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